Bristol De Mai and Lostintranslation are two of just four runners declared for the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Having claimed the first Grade One prize of the British National Hunt season in each of the last two seasons, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai is a short-priced favourite to complete the hat-trick on Merseyside this weekend.
The popular grey is aiming to become the third three-time winner after the great Kauto Star – who claimed four renewals between 2006 and 2011 – and Cue Card (2013, 2015 and 2016).
Cue Card’s former trainer Colin Tizzard this year relies on Lostintranslation. A top-class novice last season, the seven-year-old made a foot-perfect start to his campaign at Carlisle three weeks ago – and is widely considered the biggest threat to the defending champion.
Paul Nicholls has saddled a record six winners of the Betfair Chase, with Kauto Star’s four triumphs supplemented by the two wins of Silviniaco Conti in 2012 and 2014.
The Ditcheat trainer is represented by Frodon this time around. Last season’s Ryanair Chase hero will be expected to improve significantly from his comeback third in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month.
The small but select field is completed by Bristol De Mai’s Charlie Hall Chase-winning stablemate Ballyoptic.
Altior and Elegant Escape have not been declared. Nicky Henderson’s Altior is instead set for a mouth-watering clash with the Nicholls-trained Cyrname at Ascot on Saturday, while Tizzard’s Elegant Escape appears bound for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury next week.